10 Tips for Career Satisfaction–Lessons from My Younger Self

career-callingIn 1997 I served on a panel for a Chicago-based women’s employment conference. My co-panelists and I were asked to address strategies for career satisfaction for women who were re-entering the work world. The purpose of this panel was to encourage women to take responsibility for our own career success and not wait for others to pave the path to our career satisfaction. We focused on career satisfaction and not job satisfaction. There is a difference.

At the time I was in my late 30s and had recently transitioned from a tenure-track academic position to join a fast-paced telecommunications company as a senior organization development consultant. I wanted to share with the women in that conference that they could carve out a path that gave them satisfaction if they defined satisfaction in terms of their own internal values.

It turns out that was not the last move I was to make but as I reflect back on my own journey, I have followed these 10 tips from my younger self and they have proven to be transformative for me professionally and personally.

Take a look at these 10 tips and then share with me and other readers your thoughts.
1. Tap Into Your Purpose or Mission. A career can be defined as a “profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling” (Webster’s Dictionary). A career becomes the path upon which each of us lives out our purpose. Our career satisfaction is then linked with the extent to which we feel we our living out our mission, and not on the extent to which specific jobs or bosses can motivate us.
2. Develop a Personal Mission Statement. A statement of purpose or mission helps you distill the most salient points of your mission. It will encompass the multiple aspect of your life, not just your job. A personal mission statement is the best “career insurance you can have…once you are clear on your own mission, then ‘jobs’ become only the means toward your mission, not an end in themselves.” (L.B. Jones, The Path, 1996)

3. Clarify Your Personal Operating Values. In a lifetime, your career may take you into a number of different companies/organizations, each with different cultures or value systems. The clearer you are on your own personal values the more consistently you can operate within different corporate or organizational cultures. Actually, companies don’t have values, people do. Corporate values consist of individual values that are shared by members of the organization. Determine whether or not your own values are congruent with those espoused and practiced within your company. Walk the values you talk.

4. Seek Feedback. Through feedback you can discover your skills, talents, gifts and strengths. Don’t pigeon hole your skills into just those skills that it takes to do your job. Think about your skills and strengths more broadly and find out how they can be transferred to a variety of contexts.
5. Continuously Improve. Sharpen/strengthen your skills, talents, and gifts. Improve your developmental areas. Write your plan for development—people are more likely to act upon plans that are written. Written plans help you focus more clearly on specific improvements

6. Speak Up! Affirm to yourself and to others who you are and what you can do. “Fear talk” limits your own ability to believe what you can do and ultimately keeps you from taking initiative or from branching off into something new.
7. Be Your Own Personal Change Agent. Know that change is constant: jobs change, companies change, industries change, communities change, you change. Learn to take charge of change and use times of change as an opportunity to grown and learn.

8. Celebrate Your Wins. Record your successes in a personal “Kudos” file or a journal. Review and reflect periodically to build your confidence and to remind yourself of what you have done. If you did it once, you can do it again.
9. Cultivate a Network or Support System. Share your dreams with close confidantes, friends, or mentors. Explore your failures. Support others in their career journey.
10. Take Care of You. Work for balance in your life. Establish appropriate boundaries for work, leisure, and service. Develop the whole you, body, soul and spirit. Seek integrity-the oneness of you.

There you have it–a message from the past, but just as relevant today! You can’t relegate career satisfaction or success to other people. In actuality, your career satisfaction is an “inside job” — an internal state of fulfillment for which you are responsible. Seeing career satisfaction in this light requires a shift in your thinking. As you clarify your own sense of calling and purpose, and align your work with that, you will come to realize you have the power within to map out your own path and not be relegated to follow the path someone else has mapped out for you.


  1. cgilham

    Thank you Dr. J for helping me to remember that as I develop I can help others do the same. I never thought about writing a mission statement for myself or to see my talents outside of my daily activities.  There is so much more that I can do to become better at what I do everyday, and it is not for a job that I do it, it is to give excellence to God!

  2. JeannePKing

    Don’t forget we are running the purpose class on Aug 23 at Christ Community Church. We explore purpose, help begin your mission/purpose statement and explore spiritual gifts.

  3. JeannePKing

    cgilham : Don’t forget we are running the purpose class on Aug 23 at Christ Community Church. We explore purpose, help begin your mission/purpose statement and explore spiritual gifts.

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